👩‍🍼 Mother's Day Sale: All our books are 40% Off! 👩‍🍼

Best Practices for Posting on Instagram for Small Businesses in 2023

Best Practices for Posting on Instagram for Small Businesses in 2023: 10 key questions and practical answers based on real-world experience


We at Manimal Tales, publishers of beautifully illustrated personalized books for all ages and occasions (excuse the obligatory plug), have put together this useful guide on best practises for posting on Instagram. As a small business, we struggle with how best to maximize the time we spend and the effectiveness of our social media strategy.

We’ve been posting about personalized books on Instagram for a while, and we had a lot of questions. When it comes to social media (specifically Instagram) and the best practices, the questions are a dime a dozen and the answers to them are vast and inconclusive most of the time. 

We wanted specific actionable answers to those questions, and so we did tons and tons of research. We correlated what others were saying with our own evidence and anecdotal evidence from others, and provided our best-guess answers! 

Once we did that, we figured it was best to share it with the world! If you have alternate opinions on any of the below, please feel free to share in the comments!

Below are some of the questions we have attempted to answer:

  1. How often should you post on Instagram?
  2. How many hashtags should you use on every Instagram post?
  3. What time of day is best for posting on Instagram?
  4. What type of content is best for Instagram? (Reels? Carousels? Single Images?)
  5. How long should your caption text be on Instagram? Is it better to keep your Instagram text short and catchy or lengthy and descriptive?
  6. Should every Instagram post be an Instagram story as well?
  7. What’s the difference between a video post and a Reel? Which works better for followers and reach?
  8. Is it better to have an Instagram carousel post with many images or do separate Instagram image posts for each image?
  9. What’s the difference between boosting a post and running an ad on Instagram? Does one do better than the other?
  10. Is it better to collaborate or repost on Instagram?


1. How often should you post on Instagram?

The first topic is probably the one that gets asked the most on Instagram. According to research done by Hootsuite, you should post between 3 and 5 times per week on Instagram and post stories more frequently, as much as 2 times per day. The same study by Hootsuite found that creating a minimum of three posts per week on Instagram is recommended for optimal engagement. 

Social media analytics site Union Metrics analyzed 55 popular active Instagram brands and found that major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram, with no drop-off in engagement for posting more, as long as the rate of posting can be sustained.

Instagram Suggests A Couple Of Times A Week

In June 2021, the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri suggested posting "a couple of feed posts a week, and a couple stories a day", but noted that one size doesn't fit all. 

Neil Patel on Forbes says that  "posting frequency is not all that important for your Instagram marketing." Instead, what you should focus on is consistency. Whether you post once or twenty times per day, do your best to maintain that same cadence. 

What We Do at Manimal Tales

Based on all the data, we at Manimal Tales decided to post to our feed once every day, Monday to Saturday. We take Sundays off. For a small company like ours, any more than that would be very difficult to do consistently, and any less means we risk losing the engagement with our followers. Also since we publish and sell personalized books, we have to make sure our content remains fresh, original and consistent, and posting too often risks it feeling stale or repetitive.


2. How many hashtags should you use on every Instagram post?

According to a recent post from Instagram's Creator account, users should use between 3-5 hashtags. 

Instagram's recommendation of using only a few hashtags sounds surprising, especially since the platform previously recommended using up to 30 hashtags. In fact, Instagram’s Creator account explicitly says NOT to use 20 to 30 hashtags any more! 

The fact remains though that using relevant, targeted hashtags on posts and reels is still one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram.

A study by Later found that while using more hashtags can increase likes and comments, there is a limit to the number of hashtags that should be used. Posts with 20 hashtags see the highest average reach rate, while those with 30 hashtags are not too far behind according to an article by Social Media Today.

Another study by Social Insider analyzed over 650,000 Instagram posts and found that the ideal number of hashtags for maximum engagement is 9-12 hashtags per post. 

What We Do at Manimal Tales

  • As a small business with a limited following, we are focused on increasing our reach and engagement, so we have consciously over-indexed on hashtags. We typically use between 20 and 30 hashtags per post.
  • We are also careful to put in all variations of spellings for specific hashtags. For example, we hashtag “personalized books” and “personalised books” since the spelling varies depending on whether you are using US or UK spellings.

3. What time of day is best for posting on Instagram? 

According to a couple of studies done by Hopper HQ and Sprout Social, the best times to post vary by day of the week. Hopper HQ posits the best times of the day are those times of the day when people have downtime - e.g. during the morning commute, during lunch, after work, at bedtime etc. Intuitively that makes sense. Sprout was more specific, giving specific times that seem to work best for each day. According to Sprout, the best days of the week to post on Instagram are Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Generally speaking, most of the recommendations seem to say the best time for posting is between 9 am and 11 am ET during weekdays. Most sites also agree that the worst day for posts is Sunday, which has the lowest engagement of all!

That being said, the best time to post on Instagram depends on the audience's location, age, and behavior patterns. Time zones matter, and audience composition does too. If you are based in a different time zone, be sure to adjust your post times accordingly! Similarly if your audience skews heavily towards one particular demographic, be sure to post at the time you think will work best for them. For example, if your audience was largely young college students, posting between 9 and 11 am may not be the best idea as they are likely to be attending lectures at that time!

What We Do at Manimal Tales

After looking at the data and comparing it to our Instagram insights, we realized that evenings from 9 AM to 11 AM EST work the best for us, Monday to Saturday. We take the day off on Sundays! Our core audience for personalized books are mothers and grandmothers, and so posting during the week makes sense, and most of them don’t use social media much on weekends anyway.

We recommend also trying different times and see which ones give you the best results. A good rule of thumb is to think of times when your audience is likely to be on Instagram and have some downtime! 


4. What type of content is best for Instagram? (Reels? Carousels? Single Images?)

According to Emplifi, Reels have seen a steady uptick in usage over the past few years, as have Carousels. Video posts and image posts on the other hand have decreased as a percentage of the overall number of posts being done by brands.

A study by Social Insider found that Instagram reels have an average engagement rate of 1.23%, which is higher than the average engagement rate for Instagram posts. Carousels have a higher engagement rate than single image posts (0.99% vs 0.7%).

According to Publer, the average engagement rate per post for Instagram carousels is 1.92%, higher than the average engagement rate of 1.74% for images and 1.45% for videos. This means that users are more likely to interact with posts containing multiple images or videos in a single post rather than viewing one image or video at a time. Based on the available research, Instagram reels generally have a higher user reach and engagement rate compared to regular posts on the platform. 

Later analyzed over 81M Instagram feed posts (excluding Reels) to find an answer to this question. They collected data from January 1, 2021 to February 28, 2022, and analyzed over 44M Instagram feed posts (excluding Reels) and came to the conclusion that:

  • Carousel posts have the highest average engagement rate of all feed post types
  • Images have a slightly higher average engagement rate than video feed posts (excluding Reels)

Hootsuite’s social media team found that, on average, carousel posts get 1.4x more reach and 3.1x more engagement than regular posts on Instagram.

In summary, Instagram carousels offer a range of benefits that make them a powerful tool for creators and businesses. Through enhanced storytelling, increased engagement, versatility in content creation, and maximized reach and discoverability, carousels provide an immersive experience that captivates and connects with your audience. By leveraging this format effectively, you can elevate your Instagram strategy and create impactful and engaging content that stands out in the crowded social media landscape.

Source: Sprout Social

What We Do at Manimal Tales

Like most of the rest of the world, we historically defaulted to single image posts in our feed, but based on the data above we have moved to increasing our usage of reels and carousel posts, and have seen a corresponding increase in engagement as well! Also, both reels and carousel posts allow us to tell richer and more engaging stories about our personalized books!


5. How long should your caption text be on Instagram? Is it better to keep your Instagram text short and catchy or lengthy and descriptive?

Have you ever wondered if it is better to keep the text short or does a lengthy text work better in terms of attracting followers and reach on Instagram? You can write up to 2,200 characters in your caption, but should you? Quintly, in an analysis of 5.9 million posts, found that the ideal length is 1-50 characters, as these tend to drive more interactions. That being said, the same study also found that the ideal caption length also varied based on the number of followers you had, with more text being better for accounts with smaller number of followers, and ideal caption lengths getting smaller as your follower counts increase!


At Manimal Tales, we like to keep our posts short and snazzy, and let the images speak for themselves! A picture is worth a thousand words (especially when it comes to personalized picture books!), and we believe that anything more than 50 characters is probably too many!

6. Should every Instagram post be an Instagram story as well?

Instagram Stories are great for temporary and more informal content, and should absolutely be a core part of your overall Instagram content strategy. But should you repost every Instagram post of yours as an Instagram story as well?

After extensive research across the web and reading multiple opinions, I can tell you that there are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to post a story or a regular post. 

Stories have higher engagement rates than posts

First, let’s get the facts in place. Stories have a higher engagement rate compared to regular posts. They are also a great way to showcase behind-the-scenes content and create a sense of exclusivity among followers. Exclusivity is great to create organic growth as well as increase content engagement! However, stories are only visible for 24 hours, which means that they have a shorter lifespan compared to regular posts.

There isn’t much data available on this particular question, but as far as we can tell, there is no negative effect to publishing every post as a story. Put simply, Instagram doesn’t penalize you for taking a post and publishing it as a story as well.

What We Do at Manimal Tales

Based on the data:

  • We believe that every post should be shared as a story as it creates more organic growth. 
  • It's a great way to show the consistency of your page when compared to others. There’s no downside as far as we can tell, and only upside.
  • We repost all content created by readers of our personalized books in which we are tagged, as well as other temporary content as stories as well. 

7. What’s the difference between a video post and a Reel? Which works better for followers and reach?

The main differences between a video post and a Reel on Instagram are as follows:

  • Video Post:
    • Length: Video posts can be up to 60 seconds long for regular feed posts.
    • Format: Video posts can be either vertical or horizontal for feed posts, allowing for more flexibility in aspect ratios.
    • Visibility: Video posts appear in the regular feed of your followers and can also be discovered through hashtags, location tags, and the Explore page.
    • Engagement: Video posts typically have features like likes, comments, and the option to save or share the video.


    • Length: Reels can also be up to 60 seconds long, but they are specifically designed for short-form, vertical videos.
    • Format: Reels are meant to be created and viewed in a vertical format, similar to Instagram Stories, providing a more immersive mobile viewing experience.
    • Discoverability: Reels have their dedicated tab on the Instagram app, making it easier for users to discover and explore Reels from various creators. They can also be shared to the Explore page, reaching a wider audience.
    • Creative Tools: Reels offer a range of creative tools like audio, effects, text, stickers, and a countdown timer, allowing users to add engaging elements to their videos.
    • Remixing: Reels also have a "Remix" feature that allows users to create their own Reel using someone else's Reel as a starting point, fostering collaboration and community engagement.


    Instagram reel

    Instagram post

    Format options

    Short-form video

    Single images and carousels

    Interactive tools

    Stickers, tags, message & reminder buttons

    Tags and message & reminder buttons

    Algorithm factors

    User activity data

    Post and author data

    Average reach

    Potentially higher

    Often lower

    Average engagement

    Typically lower

    Usually higher

    Return on investment

    Your mileage may vary

    Your mileage may vary


    In summary, while both video posts and Reels allow you to share videos on Instagram, Reels have a stronger focus on short-form, vertical, and creatively enhanced content with more discoverability options, while video posts offer greater flexibility in format and are primarily displayed in the regular feed.

    Instagram doesn’t prioritize the exact same ranking factors for Reels vs. Posts. There are two separate “algorithms” for determining reach.

    However, Instagram has been heavily promoting Reels as a bulwark against TikTok, and accordingly, the median interaction count on Reels is almost 40% higher than traditional video posts on Instagram. 
    Instagram Reels beat all other short-form video apps when it comes to engagement, having a global average of 53 minutes of viewing time per session.

    Reels are specifically designed for short-form, attention-grabbing videos. Their maximum length of 60 seconds encourages concise and impactful storytelling. This format aligns perfectly with the fast-paced nature of social media consumption, capturing viewers' attention and keeping them engaged. Unlike longer video posts, which may require more time commitment, Reels offer a quick and immersive viewing experience that holds the potential for higher engagement rates.

    What We Do at Manimal Tales

    Instagram Reels have revolutionized the way creators and businesses engage with their audience on the platform. With their unparalleled discoverability, creative opportunities, the potential for virality, and engaging bite-sized format, Reels outshine traditional video posts in terms of reach, impact, and audience interaction. One can amplify their brand, increase engagement, and connect with a wider audience on Instagram, making it an indispensable tool in your content strategy. When it comes to personalized books, our reels allow us to showcase our books very effectively. It is time we embrace the Reels revolution!


    8. Is it better to have a single Instagram carousel post with many images or do multiple separate Instagram image posts for each image?

    We’ve all been there. Sometimes we have multiple images, and in our desperation to feed the content machine, we find ourselves asking whether it’s better to bunch all the pictures together in one carousel post, or perhaps space them out over a few days as separate image posts?

    Research conducted by Later, a social media marketing platform, suggests that carousel posts tend to receive higher engagement rates than separate image posts. The ability to showcase multiple images within a single post can capture users' attention and encourage them to swipe through the carousel, resulting in increased reach and engagement. 

    Further research indicates that carousel posts tend to have higher engagement rates compared to separate image posts. According to a study by Social Insider, Instagram carousel posts have an average engagement rate of 1.92%, compared to 1.74% for single-image posts and 1.45% for video posts. 

    The same study found that engagement rates increase as the number of images in a carousel post increases, with the highest engagement rate achieved at 10 images. 

    In addition to that, carousel posts also allow for more creativity and storytelling opportunities, as they provide a way to showcase multiple images or videos in a single post . This can be particularly useful for brands that want to showcase a product or tell a story through a series of images. Carousels also actually generate the most number of comments for small accounts like ours.  

    What We Do at Manimal Tales

    Anecdotally we have noticed we get slightly better engagement on carousel posts. Also, the data is pretty unequivocal on this one. Carousels are better for engagement, allow for a more layered story-telling (especially when it comes to personalized picture books) and are increasing in popularity. We have started using more and more carousel posts whenever possible!


    9. What’s the difference between boosting a post and running an ad on Instagram? Does one do better than the other? 

    Boosting a post and running an ad on Instagram are two different ways to promote content and reach a wider audience. Boosting a post is a quick and easy way to promote an existing post to a larger audience while running an ad provides more advanced targeting options and ad formats.

    Boosted Posts vs. Running Ads: Which One Truly Works?

    As an advertiser, you might think that running ads and boosting posts are both equally effective. However, you must understand the significant differences between the two.

    What is Boosting a Post?

    Boosting a post is a way to increase the reach and visibility of a particular post on your brand's Instagram page. It allows you to show your content to a broader audience, including those who don't follow you but might be interested in your brand, product or services. Boosts are easy to set up and can be managed from your Instagram page.

    What is Running an Ad?

    Running an ad means creating an ad campaign from scratch from the Meta Ads Manager. You have more control and customization over ad targeting, ad placement, ad formats, and more. By running an ad, you can show your content not only on Instagram but Facebook and other platforms. Ads are more complex to create but have greater flexibility and can be more sophisticated in their targeting and parameters.

    Boosted Post vs. Ad Performance Comparison

    There are several factors that you should consider when deciding if you should boost a post or run an ad. Let's compare the execution, targeting, and effectiveness of both methods to determine which one works better.

  • Execution
    • The primary difference between boosting a post and running an ad is the ease of execution. Boost posting is quite simple, but it is confined to specific objectives such as driving traffic to your website and increasing reach and engagement. Running an ad is more time-consuming since it requires more design, copywriting, and targeting. Since the boosted post will have a limited set of objectives, it's simpler for a marketer to choose between objectives.
  • Targeting
    • With boosted posts, you can only target demographics, interests, and behaviors. On the other hand, you can leverage more advanced targeting when running an ad, such as custom audiences, lookalike audiences, and retargeting. Therefore, running an ad provides you with more control over the intended audience, which inevitably boosts engagement.
  • Effectiveness
    • A 2018 AdEspresso study found that Instagram ads outperform boosted ads in terms of cost-per-click (CPC), click-through-rate (CTR), and cost-per-conversion (CPC). In summary, Instagram ads offer more targeting options, are more effective in reaching the intended audience, and lead to better conversions and lower CPCs than boosted posts.

    An independent study found that Instagram ads have a higher return on investment (ROI) than boosted posts, with 63% of marketers saying that Facebook ads had a positive ROI compared to 37% for boosted posts.


    What We Do at Manimal Tales

    • Although both methods are useful, there are some nuances that separate the two. Boosting posts works really well for promoting simple content for limited periods of time. Running an ad, on the other hand, is better if you are seeking more advanced targeting parameters, customization, or retargeting. With an ad campaign, you will have more control, and your results will reflect it.
    • We use boosted posts for things like personalized book giveaways or collaborations with influencers who have posted great content about our personalized picture books. They are easy to set up and run for limited periods of time. 
    • We use Instagram ads for ongoing advertising of our personalized books and holiday sales and the like to drive additional traffic and sales to our website.

    As a rough rule of thumb, we use boosted posts to drive followership and increase engagement on our Instagram page, while we use ads to drive traffic and sales to our website.

    10. Is it better to collaborate or repost on Instagram?

    Collaboration vs. Reposting Content: Which Is Better?
    • In the digital marketing world, publishing high-quality, engaging content is essential. When you're looking to share content online, there are generally two strategies that can be employed - collaborating or reposting content. Both methods have pros and cons, and understanding them can help you determine the best approach for your business.
    Benefits of Collaboration
    1. Visual appeal: Collaborating allows you to come up with ideas that are more creative and visually appealing.
    2. Reach a new audience: When creating branded content assets with influencers, marketers can share and promote it across their channels. With this increase in exposure, the content can now access a target market that would have otherwise been difficult to reach.
    3. Helps you generate high-quality leads: One significant benefit of collaboration is the generation of high-quality leads. Whether you are collaborating with micro-influencers or established celebrities, your prospect of reaching out to a higher audience, as influencers are experts in their fields and promote content.
    4. Builds relationships: Collaboration can help businesses build better relationships with other companies and communities. By partnering with another business, you can reach new audiences while also learning and integrating new ideas into your content strategy.
    Downsides of Collaboration
    • Time-consuming: Collaboration requires extensive planning, coordination, and execution, which can be time-consuming and difficult to get right.
    • Costs: Because collaboration requires the time and expertise of multiple parties, it can be an expensive strategy.
    Reposting: An Overview
    • Reposting is the act of sharing someone else's content on your social media channels. Reposting is a simple and easy strategy that you can use to create high-quality online content.
    Benefits of Reposting
    1. Cost-effective: Reposting is relatively inexpensive since you are not creating original content.
    2. Increases views: When you repost someone else's content, it can reach new audiences and increase the views and engagement on your social media channels.
    3. Easy and quick: Reposting is an easy and quick way to share compelling content with your followers.

    What We Do at Manimal Tales
    • We feel that collaborating on a post works better for us as it helps us reach a wider audience and increases engagement on our page too! Wherever possible we prefer to collaborate with influencers on a post. If collaborating is not possible, then we will repost the content.

    General Questions

    Manimal Tales is a publisher of beautifully illustrated personalized books. We have personalized books for children and adults. From birthday books to new baby tales, and from bedtime stories to ABC books, we have custom books for all occasions!

    We even offer PhotoStories, our personalized picture books with photos.

    At Manimal Tales, we fervently believe every child should be the hero of their own story!

    Personalized books (or custom books as they are sometimes referred to) allow the reader to become the hero of the story - literally.

    The main character in the story is the reader / receiver of the book, and is represented by an avatar that looks like them. There are usually lots of additional personalized details printed in the stories, including the receiver's name, age, family members and more.

    Our PhotoStories offer a whole new level of personalization by allowing you to add your own photos into the story and have them printed out with the book.

    Browse through our collection of custom books to see which ones work for your loved ones!

    It's super easy to personalize your own book!

    Browse through our collection of personalized stories and select the titles you want. On the product page, add the details required to personalize the book (name, age, family members, photos etc.). You can then preview the entire book before you buy, so you know exactly what you're going to get!

    Once you're satisfied, add the book to your cart, enter your payment details and your unique, one-of-a-kind personalized book will arrive on your doorstep in 6 to 9 days!

    The short answer is that it depends on the personalized book title in question!

    All books will have your loved one as the main protagonist and their name will be printed on the book cover as well as in the story.

    In some of our books like Dreamland and What Will I Be? the (the An ABC Story) your loved one's name is printed on every page.

    In our Manimal Tales series, in addition to your child's name, you can select an avatar that looks like your child.

    In our custom baby tales, Your Baby's Story and Your Baby's Story (Sibling version), you have to enter names and select avatars for the parents and the siblings as well.

    And for our PhotoStories, you can further customize the books by uploading and adding your own photos directly into the book. The stories have been written to incorporate the photos as part of the story itself.

    Whichever personalized book you do choose, we guarantee your loved one's will love our custom tales just as much as we do!

    We have books for all ages and occasions! On the menu bar at the top of the page you can filter through our collections of personalized books by a variety of different criteria.

    We have personalized books for:

    - Birthdays

    - New babies / baby showers

    - Bedtime books

    - Back To School / ABC books

    - Seek & Find books

    We also offer custom books with engaging stories about:

    - Friendship and bravery

    - Standing up for your beliefs

    - Animal rights and adventure

    We have personalized books across all ages:

    - 0 to 3 years

    - 3 to 6 years

    - 6 years and above

    - Adult stories

    Lastly we have our PhotoStories, which allow users to upload photos and have them become part of the story!

    - Happy Birthday Personalized PhotoStory

    - Your Baby's Personalized PhotoStory

    Nothing beats getting a book with your name on it!

    Personalized books are treasured and loved by all, and make great keepsakes.

    We offer custom books for all occasions, ensuring you will always find a book to meet your needs.

    You can always reach us by filling out our Contact Form.

    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published